Help me find the best travel arrangement between Missouri and Tennessee
February 23, 2012 2:27 PM   Subscribe

Help me choose from among a few transportation/lodging options for a St. Louis-Columbia-Knoxville trip.

I am giving two talks in one week, one at the University of Missouri in Columbia MO on Monday and one in Knoxville, Tennessee on Friday. My plan is to fly (from either Boston or Providence, I'll be in southern MA) into St. Louis and either drive or take public transportation to MU and then take a nice leisurely rental car drive to TN and visit some friends along the way and fly home from Knoxville.

My main question is if it's relatively simple to get from St. Louis to Columbia in some way other than driving my own rental car, like is there a shuttle or bus to the university from the airport? These guys maybe?

Second question is whether there are any "you MUST stay here" places near MU? (I prefer cheap and funky motel type places over big chain hotels, and I usually check airbnb as well) Or anything on the way along any of the various routes to Knoxville that would help me choose among the routes I have available?

Last question is whether there is some other option I am not thinking of? There's a great non-stop flight from Boston to Kansas City MO, for example, but the rental car prices there are a bunch higher than St Louis. I am not trying to do this trip on the cheap but would love to not spend money I didn't have to on stuff like rental cars so I could spend it on stuff like nifty motels and fun road food. I am a fairly seasoned traveler so I check stuff out via, and a few other sites, but if the world of rental cars has changed in the last year or so, please school me! Thanks for any advice.
posted by jessamyn to Travel & Transportation around Columbia, MO (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I can't advise you on routes, but when you get to Knoxville, you must eat dinner at Rouxbarb. The chef is a trip and slipped us some moonshine during dessert when I was in there last.
posted by jquinby at 2:43 PM on February 23, 2012

Depending on the dates of your flight, you can fly Boston to Columbia (with a stopover in Memphis) in the $300 range (e.g. $309 on a Sunday flight). STL Airport to Columbia in a shuttle like that is a 2 hour drive and the shuttle will cost you ~$50 + tip.

The MOExpress shuttle also travels between Kansas City and Columbia, if that's a better flight for you. That trip will also be approximately 2 hours in the shuttle for the same price.

When you're in Columbia, make sure you go to The Coffee Zone on 9th Street next to the Blue Note and get the Turkish Coffee. Osama (the owner) freshly roasts his own spices and it's the best I've ever had (though I've never had it in Turkey.)
posted by Jacob G at 3:01 PM on February 23, 2012

I'm a native Columbian with family still there, and we regularly do the Delta fight from Memphis to Columbia that Jacob G suggested. It's not priced too badly last time I checked. Car rental at Lambert is kind of a pain in the neck (it's far from the terminal, and the I-70 drive to Columbia is no joy).

MOExpress is not bad, but it's not terribly cheap either.

You probably won't need a car while you're in Columbia -- assuming you're staying in the general campus/downtown area and not right off the highway. Most of the good restaurants/coffee shops/and The Blue Note (site of my first fake ID usage, BTW) are all nearby.

Maybe taxi into town from the Columbia airport and rent a car for the drive to Knoxville? (a drive I did with my first manual transmission...ay yi yi).

Uprise Bakery next to Ragtag Cinema for outstanding baked goods and sandwiches.

Flatbranch Brewery for some tasty beers.
posted by pantarei70 at 3:16 PM on February 23, 2012

Jessamyn, I have your Columbia, Mo talk in my calendar and I'm super excited about it!

To stay:
1. If you are not renting a car, or don't have transport, then you should stay near campus at either The Gathering Place B&B or University Avenue Bed and Breakfast. The University Ave. B&B does not sell or permit alcohol (see Trip Advisor for grumbly comments). I have not stayed there, but the university puts up guests there. The other choice near campus is the Ramada Inn, which is close enough to walk, if you are super into walking. The B&Bs are close to campus and downtown -- all of the eating, shopping, etc.

2. If you do have a car, and you don't mind driving a ways (maybe 20 minutes), Rocheport is beautiful little town with some nice accommodations. Check out Amber House B&B or Yates House B&B.

To get to CoMo:
1. Yes, the MoX is reliable, safe, etc. They even give you bottled water and do door-to-door. They have far more trips to and from ST. Louis, but the KC ones go about five times a day.
2. You can fly directly into Columbia (airport code COU), which Jacob G mentions above. If that's the case, you can easily cab it to your hotel, then walk around campus/downtown until time to go to the airport.

Places to see/Things to eat:
1. Sycamore is good -- local, fresh.
2. Give yourself some time to walk around campus. It is modelled after UVA and March is a great time to see it.
3. Get some Sparky's ice cream, give the jazz saxaphonist across the street a few dollars, and browse in the Get Lost Bookshop.

Please mail me if you have any questions, concerns, etc. I'm happy to help out a fellow MeFite/library geek.
posted by mrfuga0 at 4:39 PM on February 23, 2012

While you are driving through Tennessee, stop and take a look at some of the electric car charging stations along the way. The state is positively stinking with them, and the numbers are increasing rapidly. They are really putting the rest of the country to shame.

Reason #1 (of 1) to go to Cracker Barrel.
posted by intermod at 9:21 PM on February 23, 2012

The Kansas City option is good. It's almost the same distance as from St. Louis, and when I lived in Columbia a few years ago, flights to/from there were usually cheaper and more direct. I think it's a nicer airport, too. MO-X is indeed reputable.
posted by zsazsa at 11:58 AM on February 24, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for the info folks. I wound up talking to a friend about this who has a pal who lives in Columbia so I am set with a native guide and a place to stay. I decided to fly into St Louis because the rental cars were cheaper and the flight was somewhat lower, though if I were a different person who could get up at 6 am there was a super cheap flight into Kansas City but the others were comparable to St Louis. The rental car deal is just going to be a slog unfortunately. One-way rentals are just expensive no matter how you slice it, so I figure I'm making up for it by staying with folks in town. I will definitely keep my eyes peeled for electric cars, stop by Coffee Zone, aim for a beer at Flatbranch and mrfuga0 I will see you at the talk!
posted by jessamyn at 6:38 AM on March 8, 2012

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